The Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau's new Multicultural Marketing
Guide and top black network and ad executives make it plain: Advertisers that
quit creating distinct marketing campaigns for African-Americans ignore unique
cultural distinctions. And that may cause black consumers to hold back their
The African-American market has nearly $690 billion in spending power, a
figure projected to grow 37% by 2008. But Pepper Miller, president of the
Hunter-Miller Group, laments that many black consumers say advertisers "aren't
talking to us."
African-Americans can have a "protective radar mindset" that senses
when advertisers and others are aiming messages "just for us," as Miller puts
it, and when the effort isn't genuine.
According to BET Television, Black Family Channel (formerly MBC) and TV
One, automotive (General Motors and Daimler Chrysler), packaged-goods (P&G,
Coke), retail (Sears, Office Depot) and insurance (Geico) advertisers get
Many pharmaceutical and cosmetics companies do not. Despite Halle
Berry's promotion of makeup brands, notes one minority cable ad exec, "It's
unbelievable [cosmetic manufacturers] don't buy more time on black TV. It's all
about getting educated."
Says Miller, "While black Generation Xers created the hip-hop culture,
one of the greatest marketing and lifestyle phenomena, not all African-American
Generation Xers are hip-hoppers." Her company's research shows older Gen Xers
are better-educated and have higher incomes and professional aspirations than
their younger, 18-34 counterparts.
Indeed, a recent Yankelovich Monitor study notes that, although
one-third of American blacks have household incomes of $50,000 or more,
"intrinsic cultural attitudes and values do not change as income levels
The study cautions advertisers: "Marketing based on income level without
regard to racial or cultural affiliation will cause you to overlook the nuances
of ethnic diversity that are key to developing messaging, marketing strategies
and product offerings relevant and attractive to affluent
Raymond Goulbourne, executive vice president of media sales for BET,
agrees. He says his network's African-American viewers are "distinctly
different from those African-Americans watching broadcast TV. Over 33% of BET
viewers have household incomes over $70,000, and over 50% are in the $50,000
bracket. Our viewers are more likely to have a college degree." That, he says,
means they make different purchasing decisions than some other black
Viacom-owned BET, with more than 78 million homes, is the largest of the
cable networks targeting African-American viewers. And, according to CMR, it's
the only one with trackable national dollars ($160.1 million in the first six
months of this year alone).
"We deliver a wide variety of programming for every member of the
African-American household," Goulbourne says, "including music, news, sports,
comedy, movies and general lifestyle programming. And BET is the only vehicle
doing this for almost 25 years."
But it has competition that may be growing. The Word Network touches a
segment with gospel music and religious programming. Five years ago, MBC,
recently renamed Black Family Channel, debuted. While BET largely targets 18-
to 34-year-olds, the new BFC prides itself on targeting the urban family,
primarily 18-49s but with programming for kids, too.
"We're not telling advertisers either/or but to use us to augment
whatever other buys they're making," says BFC National Ad Sales Manager Ty
"A lot of companies are trying to find a new and better way to address
the African-American market," says Rick Newberger, BFC's new COO. "As we are
available to over 30 million households, we're gaining traction among
advertisers to be a more authentic voice."
The network plans more unique and original programming, including,
according to Newberger, "a complete retooling of our urban-news format. It will
be like nothing else on the air. We won't be just African-American announcers.
It will have a very different look and feel." He thinks that the news format
and coverage of black-college sports give BFC "a differentiating factor."
Meanwhile, TV One, launched Jan. 19, sees itself as "broader than a
niche, which is why we are really seeking analog carriage," says Keith Bowen,
executive vice president of sales and marketing.
"If BET is MTV, we're USA," he explains. "They do a great job, [but] we
see ourselves as complementing that."
TV One's charter advertisers include Procter & Gamble, General
Motors and Sears, but it boasts spots from 15 of the top 20 national
advertisers. "We have about 47 total national advertisers." Bowen says. "Not
bad after only nine months."